Biden Asked National Intelligence Director to Assess Domestic Extremism

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
January 22, 2021 Updated: January 25, 2021

President Joe Biden asked the director of national intelligence to assess domestic violent extremism, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

The tasking is one of three parts of initial work on the extremism, Psaki said.

Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, will work with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on an assessment that will draw on analysis from across the government and, as appropriate, nongovernmental organizations.

“The key point is we want fact based analysis upon which we can shape policy. This is really first step in the process and we will rely on our appropriate law enforcement and intelligence officials to provide that analysis,” Psaki told reporters at the White House in Washington.

The work is predicated on the theory that domestic extremism is a growing threat.

“The Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and the tragic deaths and destruction that occurred underscored what we have long known: the rise of domestic extremism is a serious and growing national security threat. The Biden administration will confront this threat with the necessary resources and resolve,” Psaki said.

congress capitol
Law enforcement officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The two other broad areas of initial work are: building a National Security Council capability to focus on countering extremism and coordinating relevant parts of the government to bolster efforts to address it.

Haines was queried on how she’d approach right-wing domestic terrorism during her confirmation hearing earlier this week.

“Recognize that this is a major issue in the country,” she responded. “The intelligence committee, of course, wouldn’t be on the lead on an issue such as, solely, domestic terrorism. This is something I would expect the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to be focused on but the intelligence community can provide them support on these issues, critical support I hope. Support both in terms of identifying connections between domestic terrorist actors and international actors and in the context of white nationalism.”

Haines said she understands that there are some connections between domestic and international actors.

“I need, if confirmed, to get in the job and actually get better informed based on classified information that’s available on these questions,” she said.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.